Monday, August 12, 2013

Who's laughing now?: The use of laugh tracks on broadcast television last season

Laugh tracks have their fair share of critics. They're often derided as outdated, obnoxious and even insulting to the audience's intelligence. Yet it's hard to argue that they're a relic of the past when the highest rated comedy this past season, The Big Bang Theory, heavily features one. Given these conflicting sentiments, I thought it would be interesting to examine the use of laugh tracks on television last season.

Before I get to the laugh track breakdown, I'd like to make a few clarifications about the data I used. First of all, I only examined live action comedies on the big five U.S. broadcast networks. Second, the shows used are from the past 2012-2013 TV season (including mid-season shows that aired at least one episode), not from the upcoming 2013-2014 season. Finally, by using the term "laugh track" I'm referring to both canned and audience laughter.

Here's a chart demonstrating the split between comedies with laugh tracks and those without them.
Pie Chart of Laugh Tracks in Comedies in 2012-2013